The XXXstasy Biz

Porn in Miami Beach is just another franchise operation

Balancing your own film career with that of your husband isn't easy. Just ask up-and-coming actress Lesley Zen. "I have jealousy issues," Zen admits during a break in the shooting of her latest picture. She sprawls in the back-yard hammock of the waterfront Miami Beach home of a local hotelier -- the set of Hustlermagazine's DJ Groupie 2: Technosluts. Running her fingers through her long black hair, she casts an apprehensive gaze in hubby Trevor's direction. She's used to keeping a loving eye on him -- before moving to Los Angeles the two worked side by side at a South Carolina health club. But since this is a porn film, Zen's concerns are a bit more overt than merely casting suspicions on another leading lady.

"Sometimes it's hard to watch him make the faces he makes in bed with me, with somebody else," she explains matter-of-factly. Continuing in an offhand tone one might reserve for, say, complaining about a spouse's snoring, she continues: "And I don't do anal, so I was scared Trevor would really enjoy his anal scene."

If anyone has reason to be jealous, at least financially, it's Trevor.

We're ready for our closeup, Mr. Thring: Friday (Top) and Lesley Zen on the set of  DJ Groupie 2: Technosluts
Brett Sokol
We're ready for our closeup, Mr. Thring: Friday (Top) and Lesley Zen on the set of DJ Groupie 2: Technosluts
Newlyweds Scott and Mariella Nails plan their financial future, one adult video at a time
Brett Sokol
Newlyweds Scott and Mariella Nails plan their financial future, one adult video at a time
Lea De Mea and Daniella Rush -- just two of the Soviet Bloc's contributions to  adult cinema
Brett Sokol
Lea De Mea and Daniella Rush -- just two of the Soviet Bloc's contributions to adult cinema
Hustler's Jimmy Flynt (above) connects DJ culture with porn, to the rhythm of a ringing cash register
bottom photo by Brett Sokol
Hustler's Jimmy Flynt (above) connects DJ culture with porn, to the rhythm of a ringing cash register
Monica Mayhem and Joey Ray, relaxing after a scene shot inside an Espanola Way club
Brett Sokol
Monica Mayhem and Joey Ray, relaxing after a scene shot inside an Espanola Way club

Porn pays by the scene, and the same work that earns Zen $1000 will net Trevor barely half that figure. At the moment, though, neither pay inequities nor the travails of domestic bliss are on Zen's mind. Preparing for her next scene, she discovers something missing. Sitting up in the hammock, she gazes down at her outfit -- a red bustier, a pair of stiletto heels, and nothing else. "Damn it -- I lost my clit ring," she grumbles and begins reconstructing the previous evening, scrolling back through a haze of alcohol, Ecstasy, South Beach club-hopping, and -- aha! -- a semicovert bout of lovemaking in a nook of the Opium Garden nightclub.

No cameras were rolling at the time, but as Zen recalls it, she and her husband put on quite a show as they moved their sweaty bump 'n' grind from the dance floor to a banquette. She was spotted by two hulking security guards, but they made no move to put a crimp in the action. Instead Zen was surprised to see them join the small scrum of gawkers.

"Are you kidding?" breaks in an eavesdropping Joey Ray from behind. Another of the film's male actors -- and a former Beach resident before also relocating to L.A. -- he breaks down the scenario to Zen. "This is South Beach! The clubs lovethat kind of stuff, it draws people," Ray says. "The security guys were just protecting you. Trust me, you go back there tonight, you'll get the royal treatment." He shakes his head and smirks, "They'll probably put you on the payroll."

Although Joey Ray's previous profession was in male modeling, he clearly has a firm grasp of macroeconomics. Miami Beach's city fathers may prefer to cite such factors as the historic preservation of Art Deco architecture as a key to their burg's early-Nineties rejuvenation. But speak privately to hotel owners, club figures, restaurateurs, and real estate developers alike -- all of whom have returned the area from its ramshackle collection of crack houses, Marielitos, and retirement homes to its earlier postwar status as the Billion-Dollar Sandbar -- and they'll tell you the obvious. Sex sells, and it's been the international marketing of South Beach as a hedonistic playground of surf and sin that has fueled its astronomical growth.

Little wonder, then, that porn producers such as Hustler are eyeing the city as a new base of operations.


DJ Groupie 2: Technosluts is just one of the approximately 11,000 adult videos that will be released this year, the cornerstone of a ten-billion-dollar industry that has long since moved up from seedy downtown theaters. Porn starlets regularly appear in mainstream culture, from cameos in Enrique Iglesias and Eminem MTV videos to Maxim magazine features; from the Howard Stern radio show to host duties on the E! Entertainment channel. And thanks to the involvement of satellite and pay-per-view providers such as General Motors' DirecTV, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation's EchoStar, and AT&T's Hot Network, hard-core porn is as close as your television -- no VCR required.

Going on the road? No problem. Forty percent of all the nation's hotels (including the Hilton and Marriott chains) offer in-room adult films to the tune of a $190 million annual gross -- a number the hotel industry itself admits far surpasses minibar revenues.

"We're in the small leagues compared to some of those companies like General Motors or AT&T," Hustler owner Larry Flynt told the New York Times. "But it doesn't surprise me that they got into it. I've always said that other than the desire for survival, the strongest desire we have is sex."

Not that corporate America is ready to fess up to its growing role in the porn trade. As stated in their own published reports, DirecTV and EchoStar already earn more money from beaming Hustler's and Playboy's pictures to their customers than those film companies gross themselves. But as one AT&T official told the Times: "It's the crazy aunt in the attic. Everyone knows she's there, but you can't say anything about it."

Accordingly, while porn may be more visible than ever, with its own awards show, star system, and trade journal, it is a multibillion-dollar business that still rests on the shoulders of mom-and-pop operators. "There's nothing in the industry that approaches a Universal or a Paramount," explains Mark Kernes, senior editor of Adult Video News. "It is basically a large collection of small businessmen -- and the occasional businesswoman." And, Kernes continues, as long as middle America retains its ambivalent attitudes toward sex -- watching porn in record numbers yet keeping quiet as Attorney General John Ashcroft launches an antiporn crusade -- "that's not going to change."

Back on the DJ Groupie 2: Technoslutsset, that mom-and-pop vibe is in full effect, evoking the feel of a bare-bones independent film. The crew is little more than director Frank Thring shooting a digital video camera, a lighting technician, and a few assistants. Catering consists of a box of Subway deli sandwiches, and in lieu of private trailers, the ten-member cast simply lounges inside the home's living room, kibitzing about the latest industry gossip while waiting to be paired off for their scenes.

However, while the porn world may be based predominantly in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley, just over the Hollywood hills, its reach has gone global. Eastern Europe and Russia have become fertile sources for talent; as in the fashion industry, scores of strikingly attractive Czech and Hungarian women now compete for screen time with their American counterparts.

Two of the Czech Republic's leading lights currently sit in the home's kitchen, languorously alternating between drags off cigarettes and plucking grapes from the bunch in the bowl before them. Daniella Rush, a lithe brunette with a smoldering look that has quickly drawn attention from directors come casting time, and Lea De Mea, a petite but busty blonde, were originally spotted by scouts in Prague. The two twentysomething women have now been in the business for several years.

In broken English, Rush explains that both regularly fly into Los Angeles for extended periods, cramming in a steady diet of work before returning home. With Eastern Europe's economy in a shambles, each can earn the equivalent of a year's salary in just a few weeks. That is, if a decent salary were available in their native land.

Rush is completing her last year of medical studies and does little more than shrug at the suggestion that her present career might somehow endanger her future as a physician. And the more she's peppered with questions, the more blasé her answers become. Yes, her longtime boyfriend back in the Czech Republic is aware of her porn work -- he moonlights in the business as well. Yes, her mother knows. No, her father doesn't, but she's up for an award at a European porn fete. If she wins, she continues -- pausing to exhale smoke -- she'll probably tell him.

Performing in adult movies is simply a job, like any other, both Rush and De Mea say, and neither has any qualms about viewing it as such. It's only in being quizzed about their American colleagues that either woman displays any emotion. Rush casts a sidelong glance at De Mea and then cracks sharply: "American girls talk too much shit." De Mea smiles knowingly, and that's all they have to say about that. This is a business, and if you can't put up, then shut up. It's an attitude that appears endemic among this latest crop of Eastern-bloc talent, and one that has endeared them to directors. "They're up for anything, anytime," enthuses Thring, "and every performance they give is intense."

Fellow cast members -- and newlyweds -- Scott Nails, twenty years old, and nineteen-year-old Mariella sound equally comfortable with their new professions, despite having only been in the business for three months. They're already well-versed in the industry's lingo, able to appreciate the visual merits of back-to-front sexual positions such as a "reverse cowgirl," or to be aware of the announcements of a particular company's latest "contract girl," a move that contractually locks an actress up akin to the Hollywood studio system of the Forties.

For the moment Scott attends college while Mariella dances in a Tucson-area strip club. They're looking to amass a financial nest egg, and acting in adult films seems to fit that bill. Like their Czech peers, the couple has begun flying into Los Angeles for short bursts of movie work. The first step, of course, was choosing stage names for themselves.

"My last name?" Mariella wonders with a puzzled look. The question has yet to arise in any of twelve films she's been in so far. She laughs and turns to her husband: "I guess since we're married, my last name would be Nails too."

That's about as far as either wants to take their onscreen personas.

"It's just work," Scott explains with a hint of weariness. "It's not like having sex at home. I don't enjoy it."

"You can't really get into it," adds Mariella helpfully. "People are telling you, 'Do this with your legs, do that position.'"

Scott chimes in derisively: "Pile driver?" He shakes his head and says, "You don't do that stuff at home! And then you go to do your pop shot and there's like 50 people talking!"

While their parents remain unaware of their porn lives, Scott makes it clear that their marriage vows remain unaffected by the day's events -- both are absolutely monogamous. "If somebody wants to look down on me for sleeping with my wife on camera, it doesn't bother me," he bristles.

But the couple's insistence on only having sex with each other does bother much of the rest of the cast. As the two traipse off to begin their scene, several of their fellow actors hover nearby with a discernibly critical air. With Biscayne Bay framed behind them, Mariella peels off her clothes and crouches in front of Scott. The director begins circling them with his camera, swooping in for a closeup, issuing words of encouragement.

The rest of the cast is less impressed. "If she's serious about her career, she's going to have to start doing other guys," Lesley Zen observes pointedly, "or she's not going to get much work."

Joey Ray is less tactful. He begins mercilessly critiquing Mariella's oral technique. "Jesus, look at the way she's racking him with her teeth," Ray mutters, garnering snickers in agreement. Informed that Scott isn't just Mariella's exclusive partner -- he's been her only partner so far -- Ray simply sneers, "It shows."


"This company has never made as much money as now," declares Jim Baes, vice president and creative director of the Beverly Hills-based Hustler Video. "This is due to video. It's probably 50 percent of our revenue. Whatever Larry Flynt does, he always does to excess. He wants to be number-one in the adult video industry."

This move away from print, however, is nothing less than a survival tactic. "We're opening up in all kinds of new directions, because the press is dying," Baes explains, painfully aware that the former standard-bearers of the sex trade are in critical condition. Playboy's circulation may have stabilized at about 3.1 million, but its future is far from rosy. Ad pages are down, its Website is one of the few unprofitable sex-related concerns on the Internet, and the company overall continues to post losses ($31.4 million last year alone). Hugh Hefner's brainchild, once groundbreaking, is hemmed in on one side by now easily available explicit fare, and on the other by the runaway newsstand acceptance of cheesecake magazines such as Maxim(whose own 2.2-million circulation has made it the toast of the publishing world) and FHM(whose editor was just tapped to resuscitate the similarly moldy Rolling Stone).

Over at Penthouse readership has shrunk from a Seventies high of nearly 5 million to 650,000; suffocating debt has several financial analysts predicting the company's bankruptcy before year's end. The suits at Hustler -- who have seen their own publication's monthly circulation contract from a late-Seventies high of 2.7 million to its current 600,000 -- are paying close attention to these developments.

"Men's sophisticated magazines are dying, so we are diversifying," Baes continues in his thick French accent, pointing to his own career track. In 1999, after a decade overseeing Hustler's European licensing, he was called back to the States to launch Hustler's video line. In just three years, Hustler Video has quickly become a market leader, taking the novel path of bringing high production values to previously fringe subject material. Each volume of Barely Legal, a series of vignettes featuring young women touted as just this side of eighteen; gynecologically explicit, condom-free sex; and onscreen urination, sells upward of 15,000 copies at $25 a pop. Wholesaling for roughly half that, and made on budgets of $35,000 to $50,000, it adds up to a tidy profit -- especially since Hustler issues seven to ten different videos a month. Baes declines to reveal Hustler's overall financials -- the privately held company also includes a $35 million poker casino in Gardenia, California; retail emporiums in Hollywood, San Diego, and Cincinnati; strip clubs; and an Internet division. But he doesn't argue with the rough math that sees Hustler Video turning a cool million in profit each month.

The key to Hustler's fortunes -- and avoiding the downward spiral of Playboyand Penthouse -- is mirroring pop trends such as the current obsession with youthful sexuality, Baes says. After all, Barely Legal seems borderline taboo only if one ignores Abercrombie & Fitch's recent hawking of thong underwear to prepubescent girls. Explaining away the thongs, which come adorned with slogans such as "kiss me" and "wink, wink," Abercrombie & Fitch spokesman Hampton Carney told the San Francisco Chronicle: "It's not appropriate for a seven-year-old but it is appropriate for a ten-year-old. Once you get about ten, you start to care about your underwear."

Turning to music and fashion's fascination with hip-hop, Hustler Video also has the Ghetto Booty, Black and Wild, and Young and Black lines -- all scored to rap soundtracks and set within an urban milieu. That strategy has paid off as well: The best-selling adult video of 2001, with more than 120,000 copies sold worldwide, was Hustler's Doggy Style. The movie featured the rapper Snoop Dogg presiding over an orgy inside his Los Angeles mansion, taking the already risqué nature of many rap videos to their logical conclusion.

Next on Hustler's cultural radar? South Beach. Currently in preproduction is South Beach Love, a 22-episode, hour-length show Baes describes as "a look at the darker side of the modeling industry. It's going to be a very dramatic, somber story -- not light and bubbly. It will expose all the undercurrents of crime and corrupt politics that flow from the work these pretty girls do. That's what the public wants to see, and that's what Miami has."

Already presold in Europe, Hustler hopes to land South Beach Love at a domestic cable outlet such as Cinemax. On-location shooting is set for February 2003 with a local casting call this fall. "The fact that Larry Flynt is getting involved with South Beach is going to attract a lot of media attention in and of itself," Baes crows. But don't expect any of Barely Legal's urination closeups. "It won't be anything you haven't already seen on Sex and the City or The Sopranos," he cautions, referring to the HBO series that have helped redefine the boundaries of commercial taste. "You will have adult situations, strong language, topless situations, simulated sex -- that's the standard now, and we're going to exploit this niche."

Anyone looking for some made-in-Miami Beach porn doesn't have to wait, however. DJ Groupie 2: Technosluts is part of Hustler's now-annual tradition of piggybacking on the Beach's Winter Music Conference (WMC). After observing the international media reaction to the WMC's weeklong gathering of 5000 of electronica's movers and shakers (as well as an equal number of pure fans) for a series of all-night DJ lineups, Hustler smelled money. Setting a porn film amidst a confab already known as a world-class bacchanalia was a no-brainer for Hustler marketing director (and Larry Flynt's own nephew) Jimmy Flynt II.

At age 29, Jimmy Flynt is literally the next generation of porn moguls, a role he took to heart for DJ Groupie, Hustler's debut foray into electronic dance music last year. Acting as a producer, he winged into the Beach's Albion Hotel during the WMC with the film's cast and crew, intercutting dance-club footage with scenes shot inside the hotel and atop Lincoln Road's Sony building. "Rock and roll had its time," he explains, but now it's electronica that sets the shopping beat for twentysomething consumers -- Hustler's new target market. When pressed Flynt is unable to name a single electronic artist -- "I'm just beginning to get to know the DJs" -- but that ignorance hardly seems to bother him. It just means hiring folks who know their techno from their trance, and then throwing some porn into the mix.

Hustler Video is hardly the only adult film company setting its sights on Miami. A handful of local outfits, such as Fort Lauderdale's Jim Gunn and Miami Beach's Pjur Group/Eros, shoot locally, albeit on much smaller budgets and scales; the gay field is represented by Kristen Bjorn and VistaVideo International. Broward is already home to several regional distributors, and all of South Florida has become the adult Internet's equivalent of Silicon Valley, a status mirrored in that industry's move of its conventions and trade shows here from Las Vegas.

In fact the truly pressing question is why it's taking so long for Miami to become a porn hotbed. Coconut Grove holds the dubious honor of being the 1972 locale for Deep Throat, whose $600 million gross (with production costs of only $30,000) helped launch the industry. Yet the subsequent decades have been comparatively quiet.

It's an evolution that's worth pondering: Miami Beach in particular has all the ingredients considered essential for porn. The climate is warm and sunny; it has an ample supply of large, secluded homes and spacious condos (the usual sets); and it's smack in the heart of a large talent base -- stripper is the most common previous profession for porn actresses, and South Florida is second only to Los Angeles and Las Vegas in its number of strip clubs.

There's also an environment that is seen as invitingly open-minded, a permissiveness that applies to the business community as well. In other cities, nightclub impresarios are often deemed little more than proprietors of dens of iniquity. Even Manhattan, famed for its cosmopolitanism, finds its nighteries hoping their new mayor will simply ignore them -- a marked improvement over Rudy Giuliani's attempts to enforce Depression-era antidancing ordinances.

In Miami Beach, however, nightclub owners such as Level's Noah Lazes and crobar's Ken Smith find themselves not just respected, but actually sitting on city hall task forces and advising Mayor David Dermer's many blue-ribbon committees on civic services.

So what's the holdup? What's preventing porn producers from taking their place among Miami Beach's other louche movers and shakers? It's not the law. According to Beach Chief Deputy Attorney Donald Papy, shooting porn is technically legal -- though he declined to comment further.

"What's stopping the big flow from Los Angeles to southern Florida is technicians," believes Adult Video News's Mark Kernes. "A lot of the technicians and crew that we use in adult videos are people who would normally work in Hollywood. For them it's just a question of crossing the Hollywood Hills [into the San Fernando Valley] to get to a porn production where they can earn a day's pay."

Ironically it's been the creation of this very infrastructure that has been an oft-stated goal of both local filmmakers and Miami's Office of Film and Entertainment. Asked to articulate the city's official policy on porn, that office's Miami Beach coordinator, Alexis Edwards, shudders in mock horror: "I expected this to come down the pike someday." Turning serious, she confirms: "It's a legal industry and as long as they're willing to operate within our guidelines, I would accommodate them." Although Edwards recognizes the possible public discomfort level, she says she's bound by the First Amendment. "Our office cannot make content decisions. I cannot be the person who says, 'Let me look at your script before I give you a permit.'"

This isn't entirely virgin territory for the Office of Film and Entertainment: "[Nude calendar photographers] ask me: 'Can I take the top off, can I do the bottom?' Well, topless sunbathing is more or less accommodated on certain areas of the beach. You can be topless as long as the pose is not lewd." When it comes to porn shoots, she says, "I'd treat it the same."

In fact Edwards notes that Miami Beach's own laws now make it the porn-friendliest part of Miami-Dade County. With the production industry contributing an estimated annual $60 million to the city's coffers, Miami Beach officials were anxious to lure more films away from competing cities such as Pittsburgh and Toronto, whose relative bargain-basement costs had turned them into mini-Hollywood Easts. Accordingly in May 2001 the City Commission legalized residential shoots. Permits -- which are free -- need to be applied for, but the only concerns now are traffic and noise.

"If a porn movie was filming in a home and their neighbors couldn't see them, I would permit them," Edwards says. And if they're in a hotel room or a commercially zoned property they wouldn't need a permit at all. "Certainly they should get the permission of the hotel." But if the hotel accedes, Edwards goes on, "It's totally kosher. Knock your socks off!" She stops to reconsider her choice of words with a groan: "Which I'm sure they will."

Given porn's legality, then, why not commit the film office to actively attracting this burgeoning market? After all the local film industry is struggling, clearly in need of some new blood. According to the office's own figures, Miami-Dade County film revenues have fallen from a 1997 high of $211 million to $154.5 million. The Beach has been particularly hit hard, with locals bemoaning the transformation of a once-exotic locale into just another tourist trap. Wouldn't creating a porn mecca on South Beach provide an economic boost, as well as a fresh injection of enticing glitz?

Sensing dangerous waters ahead, Edwards reiterates, "The position of the film office is clear. We don't make judgments on content and we're happy to accommodate everyone." As for marketing, however, she insists on deferring the question to her boss, Miami Beach's director of arts and entertainment, James Quinlan.

For his part, Quinlan doesn't offer much more than awkward silences. Finally after much hemming and hawing, he says, "We don't set policy in this office." Passing the buck higher, he adds, "I'm going to look to the mayor for direction on this."

During a phone conversation, Miami Beach Mayor David Dermer agreed that film and television production was a key component in the city's economic health. "If we're on these national television shows, it's really a great way to send out what Miami Beach -- visually speaking -- is all about," he gushes. "It really sends the message out of the visuals of our city in ways advertising could never buy."

The notion of chasing porn dollars, however, immediately dims his enthusiasm. "Woo the adult porno business?" Dermer asks incredulously, making sure he heard the question correctly. "When you have more mainstream, network-type things, it shows a different imagery. Porn is a whole different bag of beans."

Beans aside, isn't this just semantics? Much the same argument was made for barring Miami Vice in the Eighties: Portraying drug kingpins running amok was hardly an auspicious advertisement for the city. Yet just the opposite panned out.

Moreover, it's hardly our Art Deco imagery that draws tourists these days. It's the promise of ogling bikini-clad Rollerbladers and table-dancing models. Flip on any of the many cable-television specials about South Beach and you'll see the city portrayed as a nonstop freewheeling party. Porn seems just a small step away.

"I think it's a pretty large step, frankly," Dermer counters. "You look at the E! channel -- sure there's some featuring of nightlife in the city, but I think that's a pretty far step from trying to woo the adult porn video business."

So Hustler shouldn't be expecting a key to the city?

Dermer begins laughing heartily and then stops short with a hint of panic: "The Hustler corporation is looking to come here and do porno movies? Larry Flynt?"

Informed that Hustler has in fact already shot two videos in the heart of South Beach, with plans for far more, Dermer sighs deeply.

"It's just another day at the office," he grimaces before offering an abrupt goodbye.


Joey Ray has fame. His 2001 Adult Video News award for Best Couples Scene caps a filmography that's reached the three digits. Like any accomplished Los Angeles actor, now he wants to direct.

At the moment he's sitting inside the West Avenue condo of a friend from his preporn Beach days. Having just come in from a Jacuzzi session, he collapses onto a couch alongside fellow actor Jordan Perry. Swathed only in towels, the duo would appear to be living out a certain male fantasy, paid to do what many men can only dream about.

Don't you believe it, corrects Ray. "This is a very difficult business for a guy," he says. "It's much tougher than modeling. You've gotta be able to get hard and fuck for hours in front of people in uncomfortable positions, with cameras up your ass and lights near your balls. A lot of people can't focus and do that." With dripping scorn he continues, "Posing for a fashion photographer? Please. That's nothing, nothing! It's a walk in the park."

It's that sense of resentment that seems to be driving Ray's current plans for his own set-on-South Beach adult video line. "I want to treat the guys better," he says. "The women always look good, so why not go the extra inch for the guys? Let's glam them up, put them in Gucci and Prada."

Isn't the point of a porn film for the characters to get naked? "They'll wear it beforehand," Ray explains, rolling his eyes and beginning to lose patience. Besides, he's already got everything lined up: friends with spacious homes in which to shoot, a large supply of willing talent, and a backer. It's this last figure -- a well-known Beach multimillionaire -- he's hoping will come up with the seed money. This mogul has already allowed Ray and Perry to shoot a scene with De Mea and Rush in his Star Island home earlier in the day, forgoing the location fee usually paid back in Los Angeles, happy just to enjoy the spectacle of a porn film unfolding around his own pool. "He likes the action," Perry muses.


By 2:00 a.m. there's little festive spirit left among the cast and crew of DJ Groupie 2: Technosluts. Inside the Collins Avenue hotel where they're all staying, the film's producer -- and his all-important paychecks -- are late. At dinnertime, he told the director, Frank Thring, he was going home to fetch his checkbook. That was five hours ago.

The success of the adult industry is encouraging all sorts of investors to jump in, Thring explains. This particular producer, a Los Angeles-based Iranian exile, is testing the waters, having convinced Hustler to give him a shot as long as he was willing to front the picture's costs and deliver the raw footage. For Hustler it's a no-risk proposition. For Thring, though, it's been nothing but frustration. An inexperienced producer has meant basic staples like extra bottles of Astroglide lubricant have been missing at crucial moments. A makeup artist unaccustomed to the task at hand had to be dismissed. And now the ultimate insult: The payoff -- the whole reason for being here -- is missing in action.

Every 45 minutes or so the producer checks in via cell phone. He's on his way, he says. He just wants to take a shower first. He just wants to pick up a friend. He'll be there soon. In the meantime Thring finds himself playing den mother, making the rounds of the hotel rooms where his cast is crashed out. After several days of drinking, drugging, little sleep, and -- not least -- nonstop sex, they're all exhausted. But with departing flights set for the morning, they don't want to leave without their money.

Stopping off in his own room to fetch a can of Coke from his fridge, Thring begins to wax philosophic. He started in this business as an actor himself, back in England. A Los Angeles contact helped him cross over to the director's chair, and by 1987 he was helming his own features on Beta. He's watched the formats change -- the death of film, the advent of video, and now digital video -- and hundreds of actors come and go.

"You know, they're not that bad -- these films," he says, thinking aloud. "If you think of them as little B-movies, they're not that bad. We've got tiny budgets but we're still making pictures with storylines, action, interesting settings. If you gave some big-shot Hollywood director only $50,000 he couldn't even deliver one scene. We're giving you a whole movie!"

Thring's reverie is interrupted by a cell phone call from another crew member -- the errant producer has finally arrived in the lobby. Rousing his minions, Thring leads the cast downstairs. One by one they present the results of their monthly HIV tests, mandated by virtually every adult video company. If it seems a bit irrelevant to be examining these documents after the fact, everyone is too tired to argue. Release forms are signed, checks are collected, and everyone staggers back up to their rooms.

All except Scott Nails. His wife is already sound asleep but he remains undaunted. "I'm going out," he affirms. Opium Garden, crobar, B.E.D. -- it doesn't matter. He's been watching them on all the TV shows back in Arizona. His eyes sparkling, he says, "I can't imagine coming to Miami and not going to a club."

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